Why luxury watches are so expensive

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Greubel Forsey finishes each component of its watches by hand. The closer you look, the more the beauty of this commitment to craftsmanship emerges.

BENJAMIN SCHMUCK

Why are luxury watches so expensive? Almost every piece of them is built on a factory assembly line, much like any behind-the-counter watch at Macy’s.

This story originally appeared in Volume 12 of Road & Track.

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We must look far beyond “luxury” and ascend into the world of fine watchmaking to find a tangible source of value. Consider Greubel Forsey, a specialist in the art of finishing – the intricate decoration of the many parts of a movement. The finish is surplus to the purpose of a watch to keep time. It’s art for art’s sake. Sure, the machines do an excellent job of beveling the edge of the bridge with a movement or laying scintillating streaks on a winding rotor. But the watchmakers at Greubel Forsey do it all by hand, carving intricate patterns with more depth than a machine could machine. Discipline, which takes a lifetime to master, costs a fortune in hours. To give you an idea, Greubel Forsey produces something like 200 watches a year. It has only 120 employees.

greubel forsey double convex balance wheel on bracelet

BENJAMIN SCHMUCK

The watchmaker’s work is so delicate and precise that it requires a magnifying glass to fully appreciate it. Whatever imperfections the magnification reveals, they only illustrate humanity in the process. A Greubel Forsey is less an object to catch your Zoom meeting on time than an endowment of the arts, so we can forever protect the hallowed corners of clockwork from the machines.

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